Parenting is exhausting. Like utterly and completely, mentally and physically exhausting. I spend most mornings negotiating the whims and desires of two little humans who are trying to figure out the world around them. Thanks to the love of one mama bear Berenstain, my kids have discouvered that their morning oatmeal should come with raisins in the form of a smiley face. (See Berenstain Bears Sick Days for the full details).
I’m sorry mama bear but really? Aren’t you just setting me up for failure here? First of all, I never have the oatmeal ready for the moment they wake up. Usually, we are making it together, mostly because I’m teaching them that they don’t need me to make their breakfast but also learning to wait patiently for their breakfast is a skill they need! But now my kids expect me to be able to put a perfectly formed raisin smiley face on their morning oats. Not all food needs to be fun to eat! In fact, most of the time food is just food for nourishment and they should eat it no matter what. Until they caught on to this raisin face thing in your book my kids happily ate their oatmeal with a scattering of raisins in no discernable shape other than a clump! Now if I don’t put the face on they refuse to eat it?! What have I started here? I already regret making it ‘fun’ one morning. Because repeating it or dealing with toddlers who are annoyed that I refuse is even more exhausting! Thanks, Mama Bear.
Mama Bear proceeds to spend her day busying herself around as she cares for her, one sick child and one toddler. This book (and many others of the Bear family) make me sick myself most days. They’re teaching our girls that they will grow up to be mama bears, who pick up their kids toys, make smiley face oatmeal, and generally look after the house (as she is described as doing in another of these classic books). Mama Bear is the epitome of the classic housewife. She keeps an immaculately clean home (even the basement of the tree house is neat and clean!). In ONE of the books I’ve read, she actually gets up the balls to do her own thing, and open up a quilt shop, what a shock for the cubs and Papa when mama isn’t around to cook them dinner! But i digress.
Reading these books, – and I do read them to our kids because they do teach some good things, like tidying up your room, how not to be scared for the doctor, and being nice to strangers etc, – but reading these books makes me tired. I read about mama bear hurrying about her day, picking up, cleaning up, cooking, and caring for the offspring she’s produced. She loves them, that is abundantly clear, but when they make her a mothers day breakfast her instant thought is the disaster that her kitchen will be. What a surprise for her when the cubs (and papa) have taken it on to clean it themselves. BUT WHY is this the exception, the surprise, why doesn’t she expect that they’ve done that. Over and over again Mama bear is seen with a broom, with a baby, with a frying pan. She’s the organizer, the cleaner, the cheerleader, the supporter. She’s that all around classic mom of all trades. I have spent the better part of my life trying to fight against the patriarchal way that our society runs, but here I am the mother of two, and exactly like Mama Bear. And reading about her life makes me exhausted because I realize exactly how much I do that goes completely unnoticed, unappreciated by anyone but me.
I feel that if I were to stop, and not do it and leave it for my husband (who is totally capable), or my kids (who are learning to be capable) or just plain leave it entirely that the world would somehow stop spinning. I feel that if I drop it just for one moment to sit back and relax and smell the roses as it were, that everything would come crashing down on me. Why do I hold myself to this impossibly high standard? A standard that most of the time I’m not able to achieve? Why do I look back on my day and wonder what the heck I accomplished because I feel like I was ‘doing’ all day but nothing actually made it to the standard I wanted it at. This perfectionist life that I’ve ascribed to, the clean and tidy home (that I fail miserably at), the amazing cook, the perfect mother, the (oh my god how does she do it) hard worker excellent employee. This best life that I strive for is total and complete bull shit (forgive me). It’s a standard that I’ve allowed society to sink into my brain. I read those mothering blogs, I see your perfect family on Instagram, I see other women out there working full-time jobs, raising kids, having a marriage, friends, fun, life, etc. I see you!!! and I want to be you. I try every day to be better, and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Every day what I want is pushed further and further to the back burner as I try to put on the brave face of someone who has their sh** together.
I don’t. For the record. Have it together.
I am a hot mess most days. I am that mama Bear, trying to be everywhere at once, moving from this place to that place caring for everyone and everything except herself. The cracks are starting to show, as my kids get older and life gets more complicated and messy, I’m less and less able to put on the show. I’m not entirely certain if it’s that I’m not able to, or slowly I’m starting to figure out that I don’t want to. More and more moms out there are starting to show their reality, not just the airbrushed perfect Instagram pics, but the real – oh my god this morning was awful – pics. We are slowly starting to see mom blogs being less about – how you can be more perfect – and more about – yes parenting is bloody hard and you’re doing a great job mama, just as you are.
This post has gone on in a direction I didn’t intend but there you have it. Here I am, as I am, unshowered for yet another morning, the toys are all over the floor, the kitchen is half clean, the work is half done, the coffee (thankfully) is still hot – my small victory for this moment. I am a Mama Bear, and I’m slowly trying to learn how to go easier on myself, and easier on other moms. Parenting is hard work y’all. And anyone who has the lady balls to do it deserves a gold medal, a hot cup of coffee, and an easy chair for 5 minutes of silence. Maybe soon, one day, we can all be a little less exhausted from the impossibly high standard we hold ourselves to. Let it go, mama. Let it go.